Series Preview #26: Minnesota Twins (33-36) at Cleveland Indians (36-35)

Another suddenly hot American League Central opponent will come to the shores of Lake Erie this weekend, as the Cleveland Indians host the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins (33-36) have won four of their last five, including their three-game sweep of the Chicago White Sox at home at Target Field. They are 10-7 in June.

The Indians (36-35) have won three consecutive series immediately following their eight-game losing streak earlier in the month. They are 7-10 in June but reclaimed second place in the Central after briefly losing their grip on it at the beginning of their series with Kansas City.

Scott Kazmir will make Friday night’s first pitch for the Tribe at 7:05 PM ET start. Kazmir (3-4, 5.89 ERA) was roughed up his last time out against Washington; he allowed five runs and could not escape the third inning. Sam Deduno (3-1, 3.26) will counter for the Twins. He has won three of his last four starts and has pitched five innings and allowed two earned runs or less in all four appearances. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports North.

Saturday night will feature a matchup between Corey Kluber and P.J. Walters. Kluber (5-4, 3.58) is 4-1 when starting after an Indians loss. The right-handed Walters (2-2, 3.23) has allowed a .347 batting average to right-handed hitters, but he has a 1.50 ERA on the road. Fox will broadcast the 7:15 PM ET start.

Carlos Carrasco and Mike Pelfrey will square off in the finale of the series at 1:05 PM ET on Sunday. Carrasco (0-2, 8.40) pitched a gem on Monday despite the no-decision, pitching into the eighth inning and allowing one run on four hits. Pelfrey (3-6, 6.11) allowed just one earned run in six innings against the Indians in May, striking out seven and allowing four hits. The game will appear on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports North.

Radio feeds of all three games can be found on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Twins Radio Network.

The Twins swept the visiting White Sox in a three-game set earlier in the week.

Minnesota won Tuesday’s opener over Chicago by a 7-5 final. Joe Mauer led the way for the Twins with three hits, including a two-run homer in the first and a double. Ryan Doumit added three hits and a pair of RBI. Glen Perkins saved his 17th.

The Twins defeated Chris Sale on Wednesday, 7-4. Brian Dozier walked twice and had a three-run home run off of Sale in the second inning. The Twins blew the game open with a three-run sixth. Sale has now lost four straight. Perkins earned his 18th save of the season.

Riding four home runs, the Twins earned the sweep on Thursday afternoon, 8-4. White Sox starter John Danks allowed six runs on 12 hits in five innings. Scott Diamond earned the win for the Twins. Oswaldo Arcia had three hits, including a solo home run, and drove in a pair on the day.

Justin Morneau has hit more home runs against Cleveland (24) than any other opponent, and his 105 RBI against them is his second-highest output against any one team. Of his five hits against Kazmir, Morneau has two doubles and two home runs.

Doumit has been one of the hotter bats in the Twins lineup over the last week. In six games, he batted .391. He has three hits in eight at bats against Kluber.

Trevor Plouffe has a pair of home runs and three runs batted in over five career plate appearances against Kluber.

Utility infielder and former Indians player Jamey Carroll is six for ten in his career against Kazmir.

Rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez is on the 7-day disabled list with concussion-like symptoms after colliding with Josh Willingham last Saturday.

In a battle for second place, the Indians held off the hard-charging Royals this week.

A late Royals rally scored the tying run in the eighth and the go-ahead run in the ninth scored on a wild pitch, as Kansas City leapfrogged Cleveland in the standings with a 2-1 win Monday. Carlos Santana drove in the Indians’ only run of the night with a solo homer in the sixth. Carrasco worked seven and one-third innings and allowed one run, four hits, a walk, and struck out four. Jason Kipnis stranded seven runners on base, including bases loaded opportunities in the third and the fifth.

Trailing most of the night after two early runs off of Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians scored three in the bottom of the eighth to steal a 4-3 victory from the Royals on Tuesday. Ervin Santana limited the Indians to three hits over seven innings and allowed one run. Michael Bourn and Kipnis delivered key RBI hits in the eighth before Michael Brantley plated the winning run on a sacrifice fly to score Mike Aviles. Vinnie Pestano loaded the bases in the ninth before earning his second save of the year.

Brantley picked up where he left off, driving in three runs on a pair of home runs, to lead the Indians to a 6-3 win on Wednesday. Brantley helped to pick up Justin Masterson (9-5) on a night he was hit around by the Royals. Masterson pitched into the seventh, allowed nine hits, and struck out eight. Kansas City’s Luis Mendoza took a no-hitter into the fifth when Brantley hit his first of two homers on the night.

Kipnis has been on base in 22 consecutive games. He has reached by hit or walk in every game he has played in June and each of his final five games of May. He saw his ten-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-4 at the plate on Monday, but he did reach base via walk.

Brantley had his first career multi-homer game on Wednesday. He has just three hits in his last 21 at bats, but all three are for extra bases.

Aviles is batting .269 in 14 games since the injury to Asdrubal Cabrera.

The status of first baseman Nick Swisher for the weekend is expected to be determined Friday. If he still is having complications from his sore left shoulder, it is expected the team will place him retroactively on the disabled list. At the earliest, he may return to the lineup on Saturday.

After a rough outing on his rehab assignment on Tuesday, closer Chris Perez will not be activated on Friday from the disabled list as originally thought. He allowed three home runs and five runs total in an inning of work at Double-A Akron. He will be re-evaluated following a treatment on Thursday and a bullpen session on Friday.

Following the series, the Indians will head on the road to wrap up the month of June. They will play four with the Baltimore Orioles, four against the White Sox, and after an off day, three in Kansas City against the Royals. Minnesota will fly to Miami for a brief two-game series with the Marlins before returning home to face Kansas City.

Photo: AP Photo/Mark Duncan

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